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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  June 10, 2013 12:00am-1:01am EDT

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.. i'm here with sally satell. bren washed.
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how we're seduced by mindless neuroscience, and the first question i want to ask you what was the real title of this snook you had a different title in mind when you started out sunny didn't start out with this title in mind but i came to it with the best-selling status of this trilogy called ""50 shades of gray." so i thought "50 shades of gray matter "pie might be compelling put is became brain washed. >> host: what are you trying to tell people? >> guest: the 50 shades and the brain earned title being the sed ducktive appeal. and want to talk about a great achievement and brain science and neuroscience and it's moved into the public sphere, and how brain imaging in particular,
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mri, most people are familiar with brain scans, in technicolor pictures of the brain, how -- and that in particular because we consider that the signature tools of modern neuroscience. so we moved that out of the lab and into the public sphere. what has the movement been like and what are the implications in society. >> host: this is a critique of some of the movement. you see some shortcomings in how this is presented, starting with what people are seeing as these hot brains or brain florida and what it really means. >> guest: exactly. that's a critical distinction. this is not a magnificent science and technology that is frankly mind boggling. it's a critique of premature application of this technology,
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of reading too much into what it can tell us about our mental states, what we want, what we like, what we're going to do, whether we're going to use cocaine, whether we can't, whether we're lying, whether we had a guilty state of mind. can it really do these things? it's already starting to be pressed into service in those arenas. >> host: in the book itself you march through different areas you see as problems. one we should talk about is addiction, where you see a lot of problems with how some of this results are being used to present addiction as a brain disease. >> guest: that is a good place to start because that's the reason that my colleague and i wrote this book. my colleague is a psychologist at emery, and he is -- about four years ago we were talking and drink, actually, and -- even
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talked about losing our mind in the age of brain science, because psychology, which is often seen as soft, can be very hard. very, very discipline in the way scott and academic psychologists, experimental psychologistist pursue it, but it seemed to be almost getting no respect. getting left in the dust but the sexy unless of -- sexiness of brain scans when often it was the psychological investigations that could tell people more about human behavior, and sometimes yes, sometimes no, but the distinction was getting lost. so getting frustrated about that. meanwhile, i've been frustrated for quite a while over the formulation of addiction as a chronic and relaxing brain disease. now, i'm a psychiatrist, and i work parttime in a methadone clinic so i see a lot of
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addicts, and we don't think of them as brain-diseased patients. they don't think of themselves that way. when you think of a brain disease you think of a condition like must pel sclerosis, visit friend ya, alzheimer's, parkinson's, the kind of disease that can't be modified by a person's desire to make themselves well and that is one of many reasons why i always thought that the brain disease model is misleading, because it implied that it is a condition like others that are involuntary, and there is a voluntary dimension. i'll get back to that. i don't mean that people can just stop in the middle of -- it's easy to stop in the middle and get up and walk away. it's soul wrenching for people to quit a bad addiction. no question about that.
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but it is misleading to call at it brain disease. for that reason also, and we think of something as an affliction of the brain, the material brain, the physical brain, we think that the cure is medication. or some sort of intervention. along those lines. and also it is not helpful, just practically speaking, not the helpful level of analysis to think about addiction. there's no question that addiction plays out in the brain. why else would people use drugs in and it's fascinating research about the reward system, and onus of memory and desire and motivation, and that's all very, very powerful and research allows them -- going to tell us a lot about the mechanisms, but when you're with a patient, you don't address him at the level
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of a neuron. you talk with him and that's in fact how people also get better from their drug problem, is the recognition that people use drugs for different reasons, and in fact drug abuse often starts out as an adaptation. of course it gets out of hand, and that's why often people come for help, because they can't do it themselves. but there are treatments that are -- the most successful treatments are motivational, and behavioral, and it's not a behavior that we address exclusively or even largely at the level of the brain at any direct way. >> host: but this is science. right? they put five addicts in a machine, and they get a nice picture out at the end, and what are those pictures really
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telling us, if anything? >> guest: well, extremely compelling and they're also very -- they're true. if, for example, you take people who have a cocaine problem, and put them in a pet scanner, a kind of brain imaging technology -- >> host: brain scan for the newspaper level. we can get to that. >> guest: okay. and then you -- while they're being imaged, while the brian is being imaged, they're presented with pictures of people smoking cocaine, preparing to use cocaine, and then they're also exposed to pictures of little kittens, or completely neutral, and you will see a great activation in the aspects of the reward circuitry, and -- which is completely consistent, in the case of activity, which is
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completely consistent with the kind of anticipation that you might expect from someone who has been compelled to and enjoyed a behavior that they now watch others engaging in, and you wouldn't see that in a person, for example, who never had a cocaine problem. so, that's all very real. the question is -- so there's no question the brain is changed and that's in fact what -- how the rational for calling it a brain disease, is the brain is changed in the course of developing an addiction problem. there's no question about that, the brain has changed. that's why the choices people still have are still constrained. no question about that. but just because there are changes in the brain doesn't mean that a person is not responsive to foreseeable consequences and rewards, and we'd never say that about a
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person with alzheimer's, never take a person with alzheimer's and say, you know, if you can keep your dementia from progressing we'll give you a million dollars. it just doesn't work, an autonomous disease does not work that way but one with voluntary dimension -- and by voluntary, mean a behavior that can be modified by it's consequences, and not referring to how easy or hard that is to do. in the case of addiction it's often very hard. but that's why when you see something in the brain doesn't necessarily mean that it's -- behavior that is forced, is involunteerary. >> that's the dead end you're talking about. you take people as irrevocably brain daniel when they addicts, that it presents them an image of there's less opportunities to
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change. is that part of the problem? >> guest: definitely part of the problem. in fact, i've spoken to a number of people who run what is called drug courts, and drug courts are a very constructive institution. they started in 1989, in miami, with the crack epidemic down there, and now there's almost 4,000 of theme -- of them across the country. drug court is for people who commit nonviolent crimes that are drug related, but the -- the idea of, but for the addiction these people wouldn't be shoplifting or petty theft. so the idea is, let's take these folks and essentially give them a chance to be better, but in -- or get better, but in a monitored environment. so, the criminal justice system, although the incentive for completing the drug court program, which is also a
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treatment program as well as meetings with the judge, is the opportunity to get your record expunged if you complete this, and there are -- makes them very effective. they're taking a lesson from -- is that the responses to nyeny kind of infraction is that -- the response is swift and it's certain and it's fair and it's transparent. but it's not severe. so not like you violate, you go to jail. you might -- might spend one night in jail but even that is usually the first step, more aa meetings or sit in the jury box and watch this process, the judge talks to other people. community service. this type of thing. that is enormously effective. but, when a number of counsels
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in the programs started to absorb this mantra of i call -- more of a slogan than anything else, brain disease, they say we can't subject the clients, the patients, defendants, to this kind of behavioral modification. we can't penalize them in any way because it's a brain disease. and so the courts -- they had no control. so, we can't expect them to have control and we can't treat them as if they're choosing this, and that is fortunately they were -- they changed their mind. but that would have been --
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>> methamphetamine, and methamphetamine habit, which is the most addictive drug there is, still respond very, very impressively. there's a project in hawai'i called operation hope, opportunity probation enforcement. that works exclusively with methamphetamine addicts and, interestingly, they don't even require treatment. they basically give them this schedule where we have these expectation office you and you don't meet them, attendance at certain meetings, and also the urine test, then there will be consequences, and if you do need treatment we'll definitely provide it. and that works very well. >> host: one thing you point to in the book is there's a desire
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to help addicts behind -- if it's a brain disease, you might be able to get research money to look into this problem. so it's not -- there's a reasoning behind it, but it's easier to get money from -- for new machines than drug court. >> guest: definitely a political alleged though very benign. it's to get more money for research funding, and i think to get more money for research fund, again, at the level of the neurobiology of addiction is just fine. but that is what it is. the translation has not happened yet, and remains to be seen how effectively that will be made, i mean the traps layings between the lab and the clinic. also, the idea that there would be more -- insurance coverage
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would be more forthcoming for a condition like this. the more you medicalize and it put it on the same plane as more traditional medical problems, we tend to be treated that way, and of course that morphs into contrast with criminalize. >> treat it as a disease versus a crime. we don't treat addiction per se as a crime, but what i mean, i'm sympathetic to that. i don't believe in jailing addicts. i think drug courts are a wonderful thing to come along, and i should add, most people do get better on their own, but we don't -- that's not the impression. not the impression researchers have, not the impression that doctors have because we see the people who don't get better on their own, and these -- >> the clinician's disease. >> guest: yes. and the people who relapse
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frequently and -- when it is a chronic type pattern, tend to be people with concurrent mental illnesses, which speaks to the extent to which using drugs is often a form of self-medication, in and of itself, and also people who have other kind problems might not be as effective at self-control and planning. >> host: i want to get into the whole idea of neural law. i want to talk about the -- the under row scientist -- neuroscientists and is it the feel is so new, it hasn't grown enough so they're on the same pain or just some of these things are getting more attention than they need to.
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>> guest: well, think month clinicianses and academics, people are on the same page in that we all know that everything we feel and think is ultimately a neural -- a product of brain activity. there's no question about that. i guess the question comes in -- is how useful it is to focus at that level. now, for some conditions it's enormously helpful and i wish we were much, much, much better, and hall luigss and paranoia, medications work, but they don't work so well for others. now, granted, even when people become less symptomatic, there's still a lot of psychological work to do.
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it's personally traumatic to a first break psychosis to go through this in such a challenge to one's identity and people think of the future, if this is the type of thing i'm prone to. it's an incredibly dislocating experience. that's the central standpoint. so medication is not the end of this, but it's often the beginning. and 0 for some conditions medication is probably going to be completely -- some sort of physical intervention, alzheimer's and those kind. but i think everybody recognizes that the brain enables the mind. that translation into how we can make practical clinical use of this is not very -- some people do emphasize that too much. in addiction, for example, the chapter i mention, the neuroscientist who says one day we'll be treating this with a
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pill the way we treat pneumonia, and i'm thinking, well, you can cure pneumonia when a patient is in a coma. you can't possibly cure an addict in a coma. that's the whole point. he has to be an active participant in his recovery. >> host: and maybe we should make that clear to people who are watching. the book is different slices of this problem. and addiction and we go to looking at the effects of law courts and mind-reading and also -- i mean, what made you decide to structure the book that way, as a -- looking into different areas as opposed to a history or biography of the field or something like that? and where do you see, say, the effects being -- is it in this trend of neuroadvertising, neuro-law? what made you pick these? >> guest: we picked the topics we did, which were addiction,
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which we -- and law, and advertising, and also we're getting into philosophy in the end. and we picked them because those are the areas in which -- they're the areas in which there may be the greatest consequence there are other areas that have been neurologyized. >> the neuropre. >> guest: yes, just add a neuro-prefix. neurotheology, neuro-leadership. some of it is completely ridiculous. it's truly a matter of just throwing in the word "neuro" and ceos. >> host: in the book you would have had a business at a neuro -- the secrets of genghis khan.
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>> guest: i think some of them have -- [inaudible] >> guest: and a neuro-literature, reading jane austin. neuroes esthetics, and some of those are more serious than others, a nobel prize winner just wrote a wonderful book called "the age of insight: the intersection of art deception and the brain." >> host: very modest about what they know about the brain. >> guest: well, a nobel prize winner. but we focus -- but i don't see even neuroesthetics at its most superficial worst. i don't see that as any kind of potential threat or complication, and i -- scott and
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i picked topics we thought there either are or could be some serious misconceptions that could lead to problems idon't want to stop you from talking about addiction because it's very interesting. where do you see the problem in the courts and where you see -- is taking a decision and marketing -- neuro-mathing may be easiest to make fun of but where do you see this going? >> guest: we can start with marketing. neuro-marketing is based on the idea that focus groups are not reliable. that people don't know -- sometimes they don't know what they like. sometimes they do, but they don't know why they like something. and that they're not very good at predicting how they're going to act, whether they're ultimately going to buy something. and these questions have been around ever since advertising
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became a field, which is in right around the gilded age, the late 1800s. and there have been theories, frankly, since the early 1900s. >> host: freud and -- >> guest: yes. this notion that a lot more went into people's buying decisions than the obvious. gee, whether i need that, whether it's cheap enough. and in fact those two you mention, the knife -- nephew of freud, and i think around world war i he moved to the united states and was involved in advertising and public relations campaigns in 1938, edward victor as well, and they both promoted this notion that it was unconscious conflicts that drove
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people to buy things, and that advertisers should appeal to it, and one of the classic cases is that the way betty crocker mix came to have the eggs. i guess in world war ii there was a lot of processed foods, a lot of advances in food chemistry, to make things quick and ready for the troops. then they wanted to market them also after the war so betty crocker cake mix is not selling very well, and edward digger -- his theory was this is because women felt guilty. they weren't participating in the baking process. it's too easy. and a wife and a homemaker. so, he -- it was his idea to change the -- suggest they change the formula so that it
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required the active breaking of an egg by the woman. so not only would she be more of a participant in creating the food that she would serve her family, she would be the classic freudian psychology, she would be offering him -- a fertility offering as well. but it worked, actually. but that doesn't mean it worked for the reasons that we thought. but anyway, the point there is that -- this idea that we don't know our minds is a very powerful one, and very true one, and that idea has been around since the greeks as well, but the mechanisms of how we come to think about many things, especially our attitudes, we may know we have them but how we arrived at them is not something we are not -- so the idea that you can imagine is -- taking
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this forward, the focus groups, not being particularly effective at that kind of diagnosis, that maybe if we skip the consumer and went straight to the brain, cut out the middle man, go to the brain took give a more authentic picture of what people like and how they made decisions, and neuro-marketing is a hard field to know how to assess. what you see online is frankly silly and very hyped. there's a book called pie pi biology, buiology" the most brilliant title. but it's brought to you by this same gentleman who in fact had a piece of the -- saying, you love your iphone. why do you love your iphone? it was a title why do you love your our -- iphone?
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part of your brain became activated. and -- >> host: the language. >> guest: that's the language that you often see associated with brain scraps. -- brain scans. actual lit it's an increase in activization, and to infer what people are feeling from looking at a -- one isolated part of the brain is just not a rigorous scientific approach. >> host: you have to mention the salmon study, putting a salmon in the fmri. >> guest: well, this i kind of an artifact but basically these two neuroscientists -- i want to add, every critique that i have is that we have in the book, was first made by neuroscientists -- >> host: the field is -- >> guest: which is wonderful. to be self-critical and
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self-correcting. that's the point. so, that the dead salmon study was -- they took a dead salmon and put it in the brain scanner and actually found -- actually, should i -- >> host: showed it pictures. >> guest: showed it pictures and they found some -- they allegedly found some activize. >> let's say the scan showed some activation, and that was of course on artifact of -- >> host: knew rove processing -- >> guest: chess, which is so complicated. that's so important for people to realize that these scans are not real time. >> host: they're not a polaroid, not a snapshot. >> guest: not by any means. they don't measure neuroactivity directly. they measure proxy. there's no question there's agreement it's -- that's a pet scan. and also, it's the oxygen level in the blood that the mri is
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measuring and that's why it's the magnet that takes and it -- and have to be so still because any artifact can effect the findings, and it's enormously complicated. more statistics and computational math than anything. and so -- right. those pictures are highly, highly processed. plus, those pictures also give the impression that the brain is very modular. this is up here, and this is up here, and this segment. >> host: almost inverse chronology. instead of bumps on your head, there's bumps inside your head. >> guest: that's the title of one of the first books to be critical of this interpretation of the technology, called the
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new phrenology, and in fact some of the neuroscientist call the scan, these studies-this is your brain on this, your brain on that, the -- and in fact the oldest -- when fmri first came into use in 1995, some of the earlier studies would be just very primitive, and of course the start is primitive, and a primitive stage. that's fine. but they would basically show people things and then they'd -- say x spot sound, neuroscientists at nyu, i can show people pictures of shoes and women and -- and their brains would light up or some regions would be working harder than others, which is -- all it
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showed is which regions work harder when a person is doing an activity, looking at a stimulus, working on a problem, but wouldn't have found the shoe center of the brain. that's almost how it's been characterized early on, and often by the media, but not by serious science journalistses but often by media. >> host: right. there's lots of things -- the critique of when we try to do a good job, people walk away from it when they present these, people say the shoe center, scientists say that's crazy, but people -- all they remember is there is this thing looking like a thumb print version of your brain with a smudge on it and might walk away with the idea this is how the brain work. >> the notion of the primitive study is another critique often made about the fmri studies.
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12 people shoved in these things and then draw these artifacts how things are going on. there's coca-cola center in my brain because five people's brains lit up instead of the whole population of the united states. >> guest: they're very, very expensive. that's one reason why the sample size is not as great as the scientist themselves would want. they're very aware. in fact the reason i have some much material is neuroscientists, who only want their work to be presented in the most careful way, but once -- the university writes a press release, men objective identify women because this is what they look like in bikinis which is truly -- which is a real one. and takes off.
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>> one thing they're looking at, not so much the localization, which is what the fmri is so good at, and very useful, the localization, but that's a real money and brain function, is in the interconnections between all of the different regions and areas of the brain. it's very distributed. so you may have a threshold -- it picks up the part of the brain that is working hardest, but that is just so much you can infer from that, and working hardest sometimes means they're inhibiting an activity as opposed to an excited kind of phenomenon. people who are better at tasks are actually showing less activity. repetition and suppression effect. expertise effect.
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>> host: the networks in the brain become more optimized. so showing less activity. >> guest: exactly. >> host: but they go pretty far in neuro-marketing, the critique of the super bowl commercials. this one is a loser, or people love it. >> guest: that was kind of comical but that was -- >> host: i like comical. >> guest: yeah. it was a neuroscientist put himself up against a super bowl audience, and he panned -- according to him, people shouldn't have responded well to a fedex ad in which apparently a caveman didn't use fedex and his boss scolded him and as he is sulking back to his cave, he gets killed by a dinosaur.
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>> host: the evolution people should be mad at fedex. >> guest: i don't think they coexisted with neuromarketing, either. and his advice to them would have been, based on the way viewers of that ad -- based on the activity he observed in their brains, was that the part of the brain thing me -- gdula, part of the system, major part of emotions and it's implicated strongly in mediation of fear. it's also -- it's like novelty but his enter tase is the audience was fearful and if you advising -- >> host: as opposed to being surprised.
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>> guest: yes. i if you were advising, he would might have advised against. that was the implication. >> host: marketing to get us to notice the -- >> guest: but i should add there are serious -- marketers are very -- they're businessmen, and this is a business proposition, and they're very protective of their algorithms algorithms andy information. >> host: use to excess, and it's hard to say. might be more going on. >> guest: there might be, and there's some certainly very serious academic dimension to it, which is called consumer neuroscience, or even some people lump neuroeconomics in with that, which is decisionmaking and evaluation and risk and legitimate and challenging topics done by very serious people. >> host: now, i should also ask
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you about going back to your drug court, and the law, there is this idea that we can somehow use this kind of science to tell when people are lying and this might affect court cases. how too you see that? >> guest: well, we have a chapter on deception, and that is one area of application that requires a lot of caution as neuroscientists. deception has been around forever. and the polygraph is notoriously unreliable because of the false positives. so polygraphs is functionally outlawed in -- its admissibility, not admissible in most courts, although it's used
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extensively -- >> host: non security environment. they use it. >> guest: right. but as an aside, that's -- even though its accuracy in telling truth from falls isn't so good, it'sster good at telling -- it's very good at getting some people to tell the truth because they think it's effective. and richard nixon especially made a point of that. i don't know how in the hell it works put people think it does and it's called a bogus pipeline to truth. the polygraph is not reliable mainly because of false positives. in other words, it's an arousal detector, as opposed to a lie detector. a perfectly innocent person could get so nervous at the prospect of being accused that his blood pressure goes up, his
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skin gets sweaty, respiration increases, heart rate increases and this is what polygraphy measures, so ask the brain about -- >> host: cut out the middle man. >> guest: very, very interesting , to -- the short story is that even though some is seen accurate in the lab, which is a very contained and controlled environment, there's no good evidence that it would be effective in the real world where, for example, you're not instructed to lie. that's how these studies have worked. even the best of them. the most carefully controlled ones with reasonable --
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reasonable sample size is -- they instruct people to tell a lie. >> host: and very carefully control the thing they're lying about. did you take the five dollar bill out of the desk drawer or not? it's not a person with a life history and asking them a complicated question of whether they're guilty of something they feel one way or the other. >> guest: and who the stakes could matter greatly to and who might be good, better or worse at -- like beating the machine -- i forgot the word for it -- basically people who take a polygraph can -- they can try to change their heartbeat or -- throw off the measurements. while something is measuring brain activity, that's very easy to fool just by figuring out a math problem. so there are lots of practical
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problems, but there are some very fascinating developments, something called decoding, the fancy names -- basically a form of machine learning, so that if you were to watch -- you were could observe several objects here and then was to capture -- i would never do this -- great expertise and technology were to capture patterns of their visual cortex, as you observe these areas, objects, and then take the objects away, and then show them to you -- and then have you observe other objects but know which one you are to look at, they can tell with quite good accuracy by looking at the patterns of the visual cortex what you're looking at.
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that has interesting implications. >> host: studies about what people are dreaming about. show them something and then -- >> guest: you never know the meaning and that's one of the key differences, because the neurobiology, neurology, neuroscience, is about the brain, and that is about mechanism, and psychology is about the mind and dreaming and subjective experience, and making that connection is not easy, and making that connection at the level of the brain, which is the hardest problem, how does the hardware think of this -- philosopher had this beautiful phrase, change changing the water of the brain -- how does that met -- metamorphosis happen.
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>> host: neuroscientist trying to grope towards that, brain initiative announced where consciousness was a goal. suddenly we're talking about consciousness as a goal of science rather than philosophy. there's loot more going on in neuroscience. very respectful of the work, isn't just psychologies defending their turf. >> guest: not at all. the is where the hope for demeanting illnesses and serious brain didn'ts, schizophrenia, is going to come from. but one of the questions neuroscience can answer and what can't they? >> host: i would like to talk a little bit about the deep philosophy stuff these guys are piling into, the whole question of free will and how we think and so forth. you look at this. there are some very -- i don't know -- call them hard and fast folks who think we don't have a lot of decisionmaking going on
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that isn't totally mechanical. there is no free will. your brain is doing and it you're walking around like a robot. >> guest: the free world problem is not something we solve. i hate to disappoint readers. we address it from the angle whether neuroscience can resolve it, and i'll step to the punchline and say, let us know. but if i can talk about -- before i get to that issue, which is in the last chapter, called the future of blame, it's -- i'd like to talk a little about about how scans are used in the courtroom today. and it's a very interesting issue. neuro-law has taken off, legal scholars are interested in it, and the -- on the surface it
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makes incredible sense, right? because criminal responsibility is basically determined -- not basically -- exclusively determined by one's mental state, and if we can gain insight into that mental state, through what we know about the brain because we know the brain enables the mind, which creates a mental state, then maybe we can say something about whether or not a person really could -- did really intend their crime or could tell right from wrong or could control themselves, which are the key attributes the law considers, and so that is why brain scans have -- are used pretty regularly in capital cases. and whether they're successful or not, it's hard to know because they don't call juries and they're there's so many
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other variables that juries deal with. and some say it doesn't make a difference, and some where you get the feeling it has. in fact the classic case -- this is one in all neurological text books, a case of a man named herbert winesteen, and this is from 2000. quite a while ago. a pet scan that were used. and he is a 65-year-old marketing executive in new york, and he had a big fight with his wife and it got so inflammed that he killed her, and then he pushed her body out the 12th 12th floor window of their place, and ran out the back and of course was immediately apprehended by the new york's finest, and he was -- and his
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lawyers engaged a neurologist -- i think it was hailmarks fine something about this man that might have compromised his culpability, and they can't believe it but they found this huge -- called arrack nowed cyst and it's dramatic, a huge blank black spot because it was -- anyway, it displaced a lot of other tissue -- >> host: describe it as the size of a bird egg. >> guest: and pushed other tissue in the frontal lobe and the frontal lobe is very instrumental in planning and judgment and self-control, and we can see where the argument went. dear judge, everyone in the world is responsible. we're all responsible as human beings, but my client is an
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exception because of this problem in his brain, and to be -- too be truthful people do have problems and it's a defense, but in this case there was no evidence -- the fact that someone has a visible defect in their brain doesn't always mean they can't reason and they can't control themselves, which is really what the law cares about, or did they intend their action. turns out a lot of people are walking around with -- if they were bran scanned there -- brain scanned sometimes there are incidental findings but they're not clinically manifest, and there are several reasons. either someone was born with it, in which case their brain
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developed effectively around and it compensated all kinds of ways can, or very slow-growing. so that the tissue could accommodate. all kinds of rewiring done. >> host: the brain -- >> guest: so, just seeing something in the brain is not necessarily enough, but -- >> host: how did he do? >> guest: oh, good question. he did -- apparently he did get a lighter sentence. the judge was going to admit that evidence and that is when they -- his attorney -- the prosecution -- exactly. so it was in that case --
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>> host: defense attorneys interested no very, very interested in it. in fact there's a lot of judicial education going on. i have colleagues who are legal scientists -- i mean legal scholars -- >> host: put out a big report. >> guest: how to toe educate judges and think about this kind of evidence, and simply biological explanations of behavior in general. when you hear about the numbers -- if you were to do something untoward and i described your behavior as dramatic or a defect in your brain, and use neurological terms, you're emotional because of your upbringing, the more biological explanation the less people see you as responsible and the less likely they would be to punish.
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i have to be clear, there certainly are some neurological causes, neurodefects that do render a person ex-culpable under the law but we're not good enough, and we'll get better. the question is whether we'll get good enough. i don't know. and referring to brain scans. when you think of perhaps one of the least culpable people on earth, andrea yates, this houston mom who in 2001 drowned her five children in the bathtub in the course of a post part thumb psychosis shep thought they were possessed by the devil and she was contaminating them, and the only way she could save them was to kill them so they would be with god and away from her.
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you look at her brain and see nothing. >> host: where do you come down on neurolaw? is this a healthy thing, another avenue of evidence or too year be doing this? >> guest: i think it's probably a little too early to make statements that -- i know it's very hard to make general statements. when people have some horrible brain damage that it's suspected -- its usually obvious from whole other fleet of behaviors they have. so many other deficits as well. so, using these in the court has come under -- it's come under a lot of question by legal scholars and neuroscientists.
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the biggest thing they worry about is that -- how prejudicial are these scans? do they make it seem like the person's excuse is more real? and, again, if the defect or some sort of neurosignature was truly -- highly predictive of an inability to reason through one situation, or control one's self, or even formulate an intent, then shouldn't be taken seriously. it's a matter of perfecting these things. we'll always have to use values of judgment, where you draw the line. so, for example, if a person has trouble with self-control and we see a certain pattern that indicates -- that's indicative of a control problem, how much control?
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and then that's not a question for science. that's a judgment question. >> host: five minutes to go. our last area, the question of free will, and neuroscience is showing we're all just atom tons, how can we send everybody to jail. >> guest: that's what i'm not sure neuroscience is saying that. neuroscience -- we could argue that this is true, which is, as you said, one cause leads to another, we're all products of our genes, environments, and experiences, which we are, but are we a product of the genes, environmentals, and neuroactivity such that we can make one choice and only one choice. >> that's a circular thing. i don't knoll how you get to that the bottom of that. if we assume that true, which most neuroscientist do, is that imcompatible with being morally
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accountable? and that question is one for philosophers, not for scientist. the way that philosophers reconcile moral responsibility with the fact that we are the products of our activity is the product of the material brain is that -- with conscious, and our actions flow from reasons that we're conscious of, and those -- and that we can modify those actions based on reason. and as long as we can do that, even if we're determined, then we -- then it's legitimate to hold people accountable. but that's a philosophical question. >> host: are you conceding this observation from neuroscientists that, we can see 300 milliseconds before you decide to pick up this pencil you're going to use three fingers to do and that means your brain is really doing this? sunny don't think that's a compelling -- i don't think
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that's a compelling reason to think that we are unconscious all the time. that our activities bypasses our consciousness all the time. how do you get sneer you drove here. you didn't -- the kind of thing where you're thinking, looking out the window, and all of a sudden you're here. and lots of activities like that are so internalized they become unconscious. that's the whole thought with sports. and psycho analysis. you want to make the unchon shoes conscious, and the point is, strangers to ourself, a wonderful book about the adaptive conscious. we don't know why we have certain attitudes and motives, but that's not true of us all the time. >> host: pencils coming in the previous decision --
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>> guest: exactly. long sequence of deliberate moves. >> host: well, i'm afraid that we only have a little bit of time so i think that we're going to have to step out there. it's a fascinating book and i appreciate your taking the time to talk to me and talk to everybody about it. >> guest: thank you.
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>> we're live from chicago with printers row book festival. we covered several subjects today. here the lineup...
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